Language and Sustainable Development Webinar Series

This webinar series brings together leading researchers to highlight the breadth of innovative language-based research being conducted in relation to sustainable development. The aims of the series are to 1) showcase the ways in which language/linguistics can contribute towards sustainable development and 2) provide practical guidance for linguists who might want to get involved in this type of research.

This series will

  • Highlight the linguistic work being done within the GCRF landscape
  • Discuss the challenges and opportunities of working within interdisciplinary North/South collaborations
  • Discuss specific issues related to language-based research and how to address these
  • Discuss processes of researching multilingually
  • Provide practice steps for successful projects
  • Suggest what direction should be taken for the objectives and impact of future research


Our second run of scheduled talks in this series will be beginning in May 2021.

Upcoming webinars

7th May 2021 12 noon BST (GMT+1)

You can register for this talk here.

Inclusive multilingual literacy: the LILIEMA model
Friederike Lüpke, Jérémi Fahed Sagna and Miriam Weidl

In this talk, we introduce the LILIEMA model, a literacy programme run by a Senegal-based association of the same name. LILIEMA stems from collaborative research in Senegal’s southern Casamance region. LILIEMA is inspired by existing grassroots strategies for multilingual writing, which consist of extending the spelling conventions of hegemonic languages to entire repertoires. Such strategies allow inclusive writing in contexts where no educational resources are available for the majority of languages. Programmes such as LILIEMA overcome the exclusion and minoritisation of speakers and their repertoires resulting from language-based multilingual education programmes, where some languages, lects, or written representations are always excluded. The versatile LILIEMA method provides learners with a tool to write their entire repertoire and create texts in monolingual and multilingual modes according to their own needs.  We provide an overview of LILIEMA’s structure, goals and activities since its inception in 2017, and also illustrate its potential for the dissemination of trusted health information through a successful Covid 19 information campaign.


28th May 2021 12 noon BST (GMT+1)

You can register for this talk here.

Hywel Coleman & Philip Harding-Esch


11th June 2021 12 noon BST (GMT+1) in collaboration with the Wits University Hub for Multilingual Education and Literacies

You can register for this talk here.

Translanguaging In The Global South and Sustainable Development
Leketi Makalela & Lerato Sefoloshe


Previous webinars

17th July 12 Noon BST – Dr Wine Tesseur & Dr Enida Friel
You can view a recording of this talk here

Translation as empowerment: Languages, sustainable development & academic-NGO collaboration
This talk will mainly revolve around NGO-academic collaboration by discussing the features, challenges and opportunities of a collaborative research project between a postdoctoral researcher (Dr Wine Tesseur, Dublin City University) and an Irish humanitarian NGO, GOAL (represented by Dr Enida Friel, Head of GOAL’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning team). The project investigates the role of translation in the work of GOAL and other NGOs, and particularly looks at how translation can be a tool for empowerment (e.g. by providing access to information and enabling people’s voices to be heard).

In this talk, Dr Tesseur and Dr Friel will discuss:

  • the background of the project, type of funding and how the collaboration was set up
  • why language and translation matter in the work of NGOs (or how to pitch your research)
  • GOAL’s role in the research and how the collaboration is unfolding
  • a reflection on the challenges and opportunities of NGO-academic collaboration

31st July 12 Noon BST – Prof Paul Kerswill & Mrs Margaret Ismaila
You can view a recording of this talk here

Mitigating social and environmental harm through Participatory Theatre: a case study from artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Ghana
In our talk, we will reflect on our experiences setting up an interdisciplinary study combining environmental science, participatory theatre, sociolinguistics and development – using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The focus is on artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in Ghana, a major industry employing over a million people, but causing widespread environmental, social and health-related harms.

Our current project builds on the results of an earlier, equally interdisciplinary one by the same team, which looked at the issues arising from ASGM in the round, using environmental data, focus groups, historical records, and ‘scenario mapping’ by which people are invited to imagine their ideal future. This time, we are attempting to create a positive impact on local people, based on what we learnt from the earlier study.

We decided to use Participatory Theatre (PT), a methodology that involves the generation of a play by local people who are invited to take up issues of concern to them. The play is guided by a facilitator until a final, though still flexible, form is arrived at. Audience engagement is central, and allows for judgements to be openly expressed of the rights and wrongs of particular actions; from this, a reflective approach to the issues emerges among the participants and audience.

While this method has been widely used across Africa in HIV/AIDS campaigns, our focus is on the harmful effects of ASGM. The aim is to bring about changes in people’s conceptualisation of ASGM and its risks. These subjective changes may lead to changes in individual behaviour that are generated bottom-up and therefore ‘owned’.

Because the small towns where we will operate are multilingual, language choice will be highlighted in the play, thus encouraging actors to assume particular (often their own) identities. 

Finally, again using focus groups, we hope to estimate both immediate and longer term changes in attitudes and behaviours.

So far, it has only been possible to complete the first stage, because of the pandemic-related lockdown. But the first stage, in which we established face-to-face contacts, demonstrated the importance of utilising the existing structures in a community, to gain leaders’ confidence and to make the project acceptable across a broad base.

In our talk, we will not only discuss PT, but also present and illustrate the methods we used to gain the trust of the communities. 

14th August 12 Noon BST – Dr Clyde Ancarno
You can view a recording of this talk here.

Multilingual Education in The Gambia
The project Multilingual Education in The Gambia (2018-2022, funded by GCRF and King’s College London) focusses on an early biliteracy initiative launched there in 2015 to develop literacy in public primary school children, grades 1 to 3, in one national language (Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahule, Serer, Manjaku) alongside English. Like other attempts to introduce national languages into Gambian education, this biliteracy programme faces challenges. Our research project provides critical insights into its implementation, thus supporting social justice. Multilingual Education in The Gambia is committed to foregrounding perspectives, knowledge and practices from educators and others in The Gambia.  

28th August 12 Noon BST – Prof Nancy Kula & Dr Joseph Mwansa
You can view a recording of this talk here

Bringing the outside in: emerging insights into language use and language attitudes in Zambian primary schools.

In this presentation we will discuss our British Academy/GCRF project which is investigating multilingualism and education in Botswana, Tanzania, and Zambia.  In these countries the presence of multilingual ecologies is widespread, yet, they all have mandated broadly monolingual approaches to education (albeit with different combinations of languages), which also privilege the use of English in more advanced stages of education. We will discuss the contrasting sociolinguistic situation within each country and compare the differing approaches to language-in-education policy therein.

We will then provide an overview of our methodological approach, which utilises linguistic ethnography to produce case studies within each country. This approach is underlined by three guiding principles: 1) researching multilingually; 2) researching collaboratively and; 3) researching responsively. In this discussion we will also highlight the challenges and opportunities which are present in working within a large, international team.

Finally, we will share emerging insights from our first cycle of data collection in Zambia. Drawing on focus groups and interviews with pupils, parents, and teachers as well as classroom observations and recordings, we will highlight how language is used in the classroom and the prevailing attitudes towards what type of language practices are suitable within education.

11th September 12 Noon BST – Prof Leon Tikly
You can view a recording of this talk here.

Conceptualising language supportive learning for cross-curriculum engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa 

This paper reviews the relevant literature and research which looks at the concept of language support, focusing on textbooks and pedagogy in Sub-Saharan African countries which have a second language medium of instruction. The scant literature which exists suggests that current teaching practice and textbook design are not targeted for learners learning in a second language. This can result in language acting as a barrier to effective learning across the curriculum. In the light of this discussion, definitions of ‘language supportive textbooks’ and ‘language supportive pedagogy’ are put forward and considerations are made for how in practice this could lead to more effective engagement with subjects across the curriculum. 

Keywords: language; education; Africa; textbooks; pedagogy

25th September 12 Noon BST – Panel Discussion
You can view a recording of this talk here

In the final session of our series all of our featured speakers will be invited back for a panel discussion. This session will offer a chance to discuss some of the key issues and themes which have emerged throughout the series.

%d bloggers like this: